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Disney figurine toys recalled by Fisher-Price

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 13:19

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Fisher-Price has recalled two of its Disney figurine toys because of their safety risk to children. 

The recall pertains to the plastic Donald Duck and Daisy Duck characters sold as part of the Fisher-Price Little People Mickey and Friends figure pack. 

The heads of the Donald and Daisy toys in the pack can detach, posing a choking hazard, according to the recall notice. The other toys that come in the set — which include Mickey, Minnie and Pluto figurines — are not under recall. 

Fisher-Price is urging parents to take the duck toys away from children and “immediately stop” using them.

The company says there are no known injuries from the toys. But Fisher-Price is aware of three incidents where a head detached from a Donald or Daisy figure — including one case where a head was found in a child’s mouth.

Customers can request a return label from Fisher-Price and receive a $10 refund.

Over 200,000 units of the toy were sold in the U.S., and 11,000 were sold in Canada.

The sets were sold from May 2023 to January 2024 for around $20. They were previously available at Walmart, Kohl's, Kroger, HEB and Meijer stores, and on Amazon and other e-commerce sites, the company said. 

SEE MORE: Infant walkers sold on Amazon deemed unsafe

FCC investigating Amazon for reportedly selling illegal radio jammers

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 13:11

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Equipment used to jam radio frequencies has long been banned by the Federal Communications Commission for public use and sale. The FCC now appears poised to investigate companies, including Amazon, for selling jamming devices. 

NBC News reported that Amazon was among several companies under investigation for allegedly selling devices that jam radio frequencies, including ones used to block drone signals or thwart home security devices. The FCC's announcement of an investigation came after NBC News reported that Amazon listed several such potentially illegal devices being sold by third-party companies. 

The FCC confirmed the investigation in a statement to Scripps News. 

“We have several ongoing investigations into retailers, including Amazon, for potential violations of Commission rules related to the marketing and sale of equipment without proper FCC authorization," said Will Wiquist, spokesperson for the FCC. 

SEE MORE: DOJ sues Apple in sweeping antitrust suit over iPhone monopoly in US

Scripps News has contacted Amazon for its response. 

The Communications Act of 1934 has a section that specifically says the sale of such devices violates the law. 

"Section 302(b) of the Act prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale, offer for sale, or operation of devices that do not comply with the equipment authorization rules," the rules said. "Jammers do not comply with the rules because they are designed to jam or disrupt authorized communications."

The FCC has even notified law enforcement agencies that local police are prohibited from using such devices.

Not only is it illegal to use or sell such devices, it is also illegal for them to be imported into the U.S. The FCC says those violating the rule can be punished with a fine of over $100,000 for each offense.

"Signal jamming devices can prevent you and others from making 911 and other emergency calls and pose serious risks to public safety communications, as well as interfere with other forms of day-to-day communications.

"The use of a phone jammer, GPS blocker, or other signal jamming device designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications is a violation of federal law.  There are no exemptions for use within a business, classroom, residence, or vehicle," the FCC said. 

Sen. Bob Menendez says he won't run in N.J. Democratic primary

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 12:31

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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said Thursday he won't run in the Democratic primary as he faces federal corruption charges, but he left open the possibility that he would reenter the race as an independent later this year if he is exonerated at a trial.

Menendez's announcement comes four days before a state deadline to file to run in the June 4 Democratic primary that's already being contested by Rep. Andy Kim and New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy. The almost 10-minute video shows Menendez speaking about his decades in Congress, pushing for aid for his state, including for Superstorm Sandy recovery and COVID-19 relief.

"The present accusations I am facing of which I am innocent and will prove so will not allow me to have that type of dialogue and debate with political opponents," he said in a video posted on social media. “You deserve to hear from those who wish to represent you about what they would do for you and your families in the future. Therefore I will not file for the Democratic party this June.”

Menendez said he's hopeful that he will be exonerated at trial and could run as an “independent Democrat” in the general election.

The decision comes as Menendez fights federal bribery charges, along with his wife, Nadine, and three business associates.

SEE MORE: Judge denies request to dismiss charges against Sen. Bob Menendez

Menendez and his spouse are charged with taking bribes of gold bars, cash and a Mercedes-Benz in return for the senator’s help with projects pursued by three New Jersey businessmen. In return for the haul, Menendez helped one of the men get a lucrative meat-certification deal with Egypt, taking actions favorable to the Egyptian government, according to prosecutors. An additional indictment said Menendez helped another associate get a deal with a Qatari investment fund.

The senator, his wife and two of the three business associates have pleaded not guilty. One of the business associates has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in the case.

Menendez's retreat from the Democratic primary sets the stage for Murphy and Kim to vie to be the party's standard bearer in a deep blue state that hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.

Murphy is a first-time candidate who's running with the backing of influential party insiders. Kim is a three-term congressman who's centered his campaign in part on upending the state's unique ballot design, widely viewed as favoring candidates preferred by county party insiders.

“I will win in November even if I have to beat Menendez and a Republican simultaneously,” Kim said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Murphy said in a post on X that the state needs a senator focused on issues confronting families in New Jersey.

“Senator Menendez continues to place himself ahead of what’s best for New Jerseyans and the Democratic Party as a whole. He shouldn’t have the privilege of serving in the Senate in any capacity,” she said.

SEE MORE: Race for Congress 2024: Who's running? Who's retiring?

The stakes are high, with Democrats competing to hold on to their narrow control of the Senate.

Republicans have their own primary unfolding, featuring southern New Jersey businessman Curtis Bashaw, Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner and former TV news reporter Alex Zdan.

Menendez, who's serving a third full term in the Senate, has been elected to office at every level in the state. His stature among Democrats withstood an earlier federal corruption trial that ended in a hung jury and saw him reelected in 2018 with the full-throated endorsement of his party.

This time, though, Democrats called for his resignation soon after the Justice Department's case was unsealed. The day after the first indictment in September, Kim announced his campaign.

Menendez, who has espoused a defiant tone since the indictment was announced, mingled that with conciliation in his more than nine-minute video.

“I know many of you are hurt and disappointed in me with the accusations I’m facing,” he said. “Believe me, I am disappointed at the false accusations as well. All I can ask of you is to withhold judgement until justice takes place.”

The son of Cuban immigrants and an attorney by training, Menendez was a Union City, New Jersey, school board member at age 20 and went on to become the mayor of the city, where he still has deep roots.

His own biography touts the fact that he wanted to fight corruption early in his political career, testifying against Union City officials and building a reputation as tough. From there, he was elected to the state Assembly, then the state Senate before heading to the U.S. House.

Menendez was appointed to be a U.S. senator in 2006 when the seat opened up after Jon Corzine, the incumbent at the time, became governor.

He was elected outright in 2006 and again in 2012 and 2018. He served as chair of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee beginning in 2013, but lost that post after the earlier indictment. He regained the position after federal prosecutors did not renew charges in that case, which ended in a mistrial.

He again was forced to give up that position after he was indicted in 2023.

Trump's invitation to donors prioritizes his legal bills over RNC

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 12:14

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Donald Trump’s new joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee directs donations to his campaign and a political action committee that pays the former president’s legal bills before the RNC gets a cut, according to a fundraising invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

The unorthodox diversion of funds to the Save America PAC makes it more likely that Republican donors could see their money go to Trump’s lawyers, who have received at least $76 million over the last two years to defend him against four felony indictments and multiple civil cases. Some Republicans are already troubled that Trump’s takeover of the RNC could shortchange the cash-strapped party.

SEE MORE: Trump's lawyers say he is unable to post $454 million to cover bond

Trump has invited high-dollar donors to Palm Beach, Florida, for an April 6 fundraiser that comes as his fundraising is well behind President Joe Biden and national Democrats. The invitation’s fine print says donations to the Trump 47 Committee will first be used to give the maximum amount allowed under federal law to Trump’s campaign. 

Anything left over from the donation next goes toward a maximum contribution to Save America, and then anything left from there goes to the RNC and then to state political parties.

Adav Noti, the executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said that is a break from fundraising norms. Usually, Noti said, candidates prioritize raising cash that can be spent directly on campaign activity. 

Save America, on the other hand, is structured as a “leadership PAC” and thus barred from spending directly on Trump’s own campaign activities. Legal spending made up 85% of Save America’s total operating expenses during the first two months of this year, roughly the same as 2023, when such expenses were about 89%. It has spent $8.5 million on legal fees so far this year.

“The reason most candidates don’t do this is because the hardest money to raise is money that can be spent directly on the campaign,” said Noti, a former staff attorney for the Federal Election Commission. “No other candidate has used a leadership PAC the way the Trump campaign has.”

SEE MORE: New York AG threatens to seize Trump properties if fines aren't paid

The Trump campaign noted that Save America spends on expenses other than legal fees and that donors to the April fundraiser who contribute the suggested $814,600 per person or $250,000 per person will only have $5,000 of their donation go to Save America, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to the RNC.

“Save America also covers a very active and robust post-Presidency office and other various expenses not related to fighting the illegal witch-hunts perpetrated by Crooked Joe Biden. The Trump campaign, the RNC, and state GOP parties ultimately receive the overwhelming majority of funds raised through the Trump 47 Committee. Out of an Individual donor’s maximum contribution of $824,600, less than 1% (.006%) goes to Save America,” Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign communications director, said in a statement.

People in this state pay 121% more for car insurance than US average

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 12:01

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A new study by MarketWatch found Floridians are paying some of the highest car insurance premiums in the country right now.

"Rates are up pretty much everywhere, but Florida is definitely up there," David Straughan, an analyst with MarketWatch, said.

According to the study, the average premium for a full-coverage auto insurance policy in Florida jumped 10.1% in 2023.

"One of the things we found out towards the end of that study is the number of uninsured drivers is 20% in 2019, which is the last kind of year we have as reliable data for that," Straughan said.

That's one reason for the spike, according to MarketWatch, along with an increase in car thefts.

"It's been up, ranked fourth overall in 2022, which is the last available year that we have for that data," Straughan said. "Natural disasters, which also is a big reason why home insurance is up, are a huge threat in a lot of parts of Florida."

The study found Florida is currently the second-most-expensive state for full auto coverage — which typically costs $3,244 per year — and the most expensive for minimum coverage, costing around $1,345 per year.

According to MarketWatch, that's 121% higher than the national average.

In West Palm Beach, MarketWatch found an average driver can expect to pay $244 monthly and nearly $3,000 for coverage each year.

"What we've heard from the insurance experts we've talked to is it's not likely to go down any time soon," Straughan said.

In the meantime, MarketWatch created a list of the most affordable car insurers in Florida. State Farm, Geico and Travelers are at the top of the list.

"The difference between two providers for the same policy could be hundreds of dollars a year. And right now, especially as things are getting tight for everybody, that could make a huge difference," Straughan said.

You can read the full study and compare prices by clicking here.

This story was originally published by Jessica Bruno at Scripps News West Palm Beach.

Thinking solar power? Make sure you do your homework

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 11:53

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Roughly 8% of US homes now have solar panels, according to Pew, and even more homeowners are considering the switch.

But before you sign a contract, know the pros and cons because some buyers have to pay for years and years and never see the promised savings.

Angela Thompson was excited when her elderly brother signed on to purchase rooftop solar panels after a salesman promised he would save money on his electric bill.

But when she looked at the contract her brother signed, her jaw dropped.

"He doesn't have enough income to cover it," he said,

Thompson says the salesperson got her brother to agree to $129 a month for nearly two and a half decades, paying $37,000, including $15,000 in interest.

"They want him to pay for 25 years," she said.

But her brother is 83 years old, meaning he is supposed to pay until he is 108 years old.

SEE MORE: Texas led the US in new solar power installation in 2023

CNET: Be sure to do your homework

Andrew Blok is an editor at CNET. Unfortunately, he has seen this before.

He says the top selling points for solar include savings, environmental benefits and boosted reliability. But Blok says it’s a bad idea to rush your decision.

That's where it's easy to sign a bad contract that can wipe out your savings.

"Talk to multiple installers," he said. "Don't go with your first quote."

Next, he says, do your research.

That means reading reviews online and even asking your neighbors.

“Their first-hand experience is super valuable," he said.

He said if you're paying cash, "Don't pay all of it until your system is installed and operating.”

Finally, he says to check for savings from the government.

“You can get a 30% tax credit on the investment,” he said.

Check homeowner's guide

Garrett Nilsen is the deputy director of the Solar Energy Technologies office at the U.S. Department of Energy. The Department of Energy's website features the Homeowner's Guide to Going Solar.

“Read through the whole thing and understand the process," Nilsen said.

If solar feels like a good fit, he says this is the perfect time to flip the switch.

But as Thompson and her brother learned, a bad loan can lock you in for years.

That's why you must ask many questions before signing a solar contract.

“It's not going to save him any money at all," she said.

2,000 NCAA brackets still perfect, 18 still looking for first win

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 11:19

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Believe it or not, more than 2,000 known brackets remained perfect at the end of the day Thursday as most participants in various NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament challenges took their first loss early in the day.

The NCAA said that after the first day last year, fewer than 800 brackets remained perfect. 

The NCAA is tracking brackets completed through the Men's Bracket Challenge Game, ESPN, CBS and Yahoo. In order for the brackets to survive the day, they would have needed to correctly pick five upsets. 

The NCAA said there are approximately 29 million known brackets. Of the known perfect brackets, 1,825 remained through ESPN. ESPN said it had 22 million brackets filled out through its website. 

ESPN noted that 18 of its 22 million brackets lost all 16 games on Thursday. 

Over 18.5 million of ESPN's 22 million brackets had at least one loss after just two games yesterday when Mississippi State and BYU both lost in the early afternoon. 

The most prominent of Thursday's upsets came early in the evening when the Oakland Golden Grizzlies advanced to the second round for the first time in program history by defeating the Kentucky Wildcats. Oakland entered as the No. 14 seed, and toppled the No. 3-seed Wildcats. Only about 5% of brackets had Oakland defeating Kentucky, and among the few who picked Oakland was Vice President Kamala Harris. 

SEE MORE: Poll: Caitlin Clark is biggest name in NCAA basketball, male or female

According to the NCAA, 6.5% of all brackets had Kentucky winning it all. 

Last year, no brackets remained perfect through the second day; the last perfect bracket was eliminated during the evening when No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson defeated No. 1 seed Purdue. 

The last time a known bracket survived the entire first round was in 2019. According to the NCAA, Gregg Nigl had his perfect bracket intact all the way to the start of the Sweet 16. He had predicted the first 49 games correctly.

The NCAA notes that it is unable to track all brackets, as some participate in local challenges with friends and social groups. 

Tennessee is the first state to protect musicians from AI infringement

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 02:47

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed off on legislation designed to protect songwriters, performers and other music industry professionals against the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

The move makes Tennessee, long known as the birthplace of country music and the launchpad for musical legends, the first state in the U.S. to enact such measures. Supporters say the goal is to ensure that AI tools cannot replicate an artist’s voice without their consent. The bill goes into effect July 1.

“We employ more people in Tennessee in the music industry than any other state,” Lee told reporters shortly after signing the bill into law. “Artists have intellectual property. They have gifts. They have a uniqueness that is theirs and theirs alone, certainly not artificial intelligence.”

The Volunteer State is just one of three states where name, photographs and likeness are considered a property right rather than a right of publicity. According to the newly signed statute — dubbed the Ensuring Likeness, Voice, and Image Security Act or “ELVIS Act” — vocal likeness will now be added to that list.

The law also creates a new civil action where people can be held liable if they publish or perform an individual's voice without permission, as well as use a technology to produce an artist's name, photographs, voice or likeness without the proper authorization.

Yet it remains to be seen how effective the legislation will be for artists looking to shield their art from being scraped and replicated by AI without their permission. Supporters like Lee acknowledged that despite the sweeping support from those inside the music industry and unanimous approval from the Tennessee Statehouse, the legislation is untested. Amid ongoing clashes between the GOP supermajority and handful of Democrats, this level of bipartisan agreement is a shocking anomaly.

Many Tennessee musicians say they don't have the luxury to wait for a perfect solution, pointing out that the threats of AI are already showing up on their cellphones and in their recording studios.

“Stuff comes in on my phone and I can't tell it's not me,” said country star Luke Bryan. “It's a real deal now and hopefully this will curb it and slow it down.”

SEE MORE: House floats a new bill for warning labels on AI-generated content

The Republican governor held the bill signing event at the heart of Nashville’s Lower Broadway inside a packed Robert’s Western World. The beloved honky tonk is often overflowing with tourists eager to listen to traditional country music and snag a fried bologna sandwich.

Lee joked that he and his wife, Maria, sometimes sneak into Robert’s for an incognito date while other lawmakers swapped stories about swinging by the iconic establishment on the weekends.

Naming the newly enacted statute after Elvis Presley wasn't just a nod to one of the state's most iconic residents.

The death of Presley in 1977 sparked a contentious and lengthy legal battle over the unauthorized use of his name and likeness, as many argued that once a celebrity died, their name and image entered into the public domain.

However, by 1984 the Tennessee Legislature passed the Personal Rights Protection Act, which ensured that personality rights do not stop at death and can be passed down to others. It states that “the individual rights … constitute property rights and are freely assignable and licensable, and do not expire upon the death of the individual so protected.”

The move was largely seen as critical to protecting Presley’s estate, but in the decades since then has also been praised as protecting the names, photographs and likenesses of all of Tennessee’s public figures.

Now Tennessee will add vocal likeness to those protections.

The world's e-waste problem is getting worse, the UN says

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 02:38

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In a new report released this week, the United Nations said the amount of electronics waste worldwide is growing even as efforts to recycle it may be falling even further behind targets. 

The Global E-waste Monitor's report defines e-waste as "any discarded product with a plug or battery." This includes phones, computers, e-cigarettes, solar panels and other electronic appliances. It doesn't include electronic vehicle waste.

The report says in 2022, 62 million tons of waste was discarded. By 2030, totals could reach 82 million tons. 

The waste threatens the state of the environment and the health of humans. Mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic found in electronic waste can cause neurological damage, cancer and miscarriages.

The report also notes that discarded tech products equals billions of dollars in potentially recoverable materials that are going to waste. Discarded metals in waste — like copper and gold —could be worth more than $90 billion if the materials were properly reclaimed. Right now, recycled rare earth metals only meet 1% of demand.

The growth of the electronics waste problem globally is expected to outpace recycling efforts, even further. 

E-waste is discarded at a rate five times faster than it is recycled, and only a quarter of it was properly handled for recycling in 2022, the U.N. said.

Overall consumption of electronic tech is climbing, and products are sometimes more difficult to repair and may also be trending toward shorter life cycles.

SEE MORE: WHO predicts cancer cases will rise 77% by 2050

"The latest research shows that the global challenge posed by e-waste is only going to grow," according to an analysis written by Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, the head of the ITU telecommunication development bureau. "With less than half of the world implementing and enforcing approaches to manage the problem, this raises the alarm for sound regulations to boost collection and recycling."

The report says efforts to recycle more e-waste could pay for themselves, especially through avoiding the costs of health problems. If 60% of e-waste were recycled, it could return billions of dollars over the costs of processing, according to the report's findings.

"We must seize the economic and environmental benefits of proper e-waste management," according to Vanessa Gray, the head of the Environment & Emergency Telecommunications Division for the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. She says, "Otherwise, the digital ambitions of our future generations will face significant risks."

Poll: Nearly 8 in 10 US AAPI adults think abortion should be legal

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 02:30

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With abortion rights poised to be one of the major issues in the 2024 election, a new poll shows that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States are highly supportive of legal abortion, even in situations where the pregnant person wants an abortion for any reason.

The poll from AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that nearly 8 in 10 Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. They're also supportive of federal government action to preserve abortion rights: Three-quarters of AAPI adults say Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortions nationwide.

By comparison, an AP-NORC poll conducted last June found that 64% of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 6 in 10 U.S. adults overall say Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access. AAPI adults are more likely than Americans overall to identify as Democrats, which may partially explain why their levels of support for legal abortion are higher than among the general population. 

But, even among Democrats, AAPI adults are more supportive of legal abortion later in pregnancy. AAPI Democrats are especially likely to support legal abortion without any limits — more than half of this group say abortion should be legal in all cases, compared to 40% of Democrats overall.

SEE MORE: Arizona lawmaker calls out 'cruel' laws, sharing her abortion story

AAPI Republicans are also more likely than Republicans overall to support a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide. More than half (57%) of AAPI Republicans think abortion should be legal in at least some cases, compared to 38% of Republicans in general. 

About half (51%) of AAPI Republicans also think Congress should pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide, while only 32% of Republicans overall want this to happen. Although AAPI voters are a fast-growing demographic with a particularly large presence in states like California, Texas and New York, their attitudes can often not be analyzed in other surveys because of small sample sizes, among other issues. 

This survey is part of an ongoing project focusing on AAPI Americans' views. High turnout in areas with large AAPI communities could help Democrats in competitive House districts, and a broader conversation about whether nonwhite voters are shifting to the right may lead to more courting of AAPI voters. 

The survey's findings suggest that abortion could be a strong issue for Democratic candidates who are looking to reach AAPI communities, and a challenge for Republicans.

"It saddens me how politics got involved in this, and they really shouldn't have," said Debra Nanez, a 72-year-old retired nurse in Tucson, Arizona, and an Independent voter. Nanez identifies as Asian, Native American and Hispanic. 

"It's a woman's body. How can you tell us what we can do with our bodies, what we can keep and what we cannot keep? It's ridiculous."

While an AP-NORC poll conducted in October 2022 found that more than 4 in 10 Americans overall trust Democrats to do a better job of handling the issue of abortion, while only 2 in 10 have more trust in Republicans, the poll released Thursday shows that the trust gap between the parties is wider for AAPI adults. Fifty-five percent of AAPI adults trust Democrats on abortion policy, while only 12% trust Republicans.

More than half of AAPI adults were born outside the U.S., according to the survey. For many of those immigrants and their first-generation American children, abortion isn't just viewed as health care — it can also be seen as a right that was not afforded to them in their countries of origin, said Varun Nikore, executive director of AAPI Victory Alliance, a progressive political advocacy organization.

"I think it has to do with some sort of home country attitudes that are sort of pervasive, but also the strong feeling we've had rights and we've had access to health care, and now we don't want to lose something that we had. And it could be that we also came to this country to have better access to health care than we did before," Nikore said.

Nearly 6 in 10 AAPI adults don't want Congress to pass a law preserving states’ ability to set their own laws allowing or restricting abortion, and only 14% support the passage of a law banning access to abortions nationwide. Joie Meyer, 24, is a health care consultant in Florida, where abortions are prohibited after 15 weeks of pregnancy. She said that given that other nearby states like Alabama and Georgia have even more restrictive abortion laws, she would have to travel far to receive the procedure.

"I'm 24 and maybe some people my age are having children, but if I were to get in that position to be pregnant, I don't think I would feel ready," she said. "So, that would be something that I would have to think about."

Meyer, who was born in China but has lived in the U.S. since she was an infant, has made plans with a friend in California in case she does need an abortion. Flying across the country might be more time-consuming than driving to the nearest state that provides abortion, but she said she wants to know that she'll be with someone who can take care of her during the recovery.

"Even if there's a closer state, would I want to do that alone and have to really navigate that physical and emotional pain alone? Not really," Meyer said.

The poll of 1,172 U.S. adults who are Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was conducted from Feb. 5-14, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Amplify AAPI Panel, designed to be representative of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population. 

The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Renting will be cheaper than buying a home for years, report finds

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 02:01

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Buying property instead of renting it has often been considered the financially smarter choice for housing.

The argument has long stood on the fact that you're making an investment when you purchase real estate, with some form of money bound to come back to you if you sell. On the other hand, renting is seen as a no-return purchase; all that money you spent to live there won't be seen again once you decide to pick up and leave.

In reality, however, the argument isn't so black and white. There are many factors to consider when determining which choice is better for you and your finances like insurance, location, lifestyle and — of course — the state of the economy and the housing market. 

That last note is what's pushing many people to continue renting after the cost of homes skyrocketed in 2021 and supply saw a steep decline. And according to a recent report from CBRE, don't expect that to change anytime soon.

The real estate firm released an analysis Thursday that states it'll take some time for the gap between renting and home buying to start closing, meaning renting will likely be the less expensive choice of the two no matter your situation due to the current state of the market.

"Even though the premium to buy a home may come down over the next several years based on home-price, interest-rate and rent-growth forecasts, it is expected to remain high enough to keep today's renters renting for longer," CBRE said in its report.

SEE MORE: Report says homebuyers need to earn $47,000 more than in 2020

The report states average mortgage payments are currently 38% higher than average apartment rents as of the end of last year, which has led more U.S. households to continue living in rentals instead of looking to buy. And despite the currently fluctuating market, CBRE's data shows it'll be at least five years until the two expenses become as closely aligned as they were before the steep increase in 2021.

That year, the company's data shows the average monthly multifamily rent and average new home mortgage payment were both around $2,000. By the next year, average mortgages reached around $3,200, whereas average rents rose to around $2,200, their data shows. 

The highest divide came after 2022, when CBRE reports the average mortgage payment was nearly $3,400 and rent was still circling $2,200. 

The company's data shows since then, mortgage rates have gone down as rent prices have gone up. But now the former has somewhat plateaued, and CBRE predicts that will continue. By the end of 2024 Q4, it predicts the average mortgage payments will be around $2,700 and stay around there until at least 2028. Meanwhile, it predicts the average multifamily rents will grow by 2.8% annually over the next five years, with rents starting around $2,200 and hitting $2,500 by 2028.

This relationship, CBRE says, stems from the price of each impacting the demand for each. The real estate firm says it'll take a combination of falling home prices and decreased mortgage rates to bring the cost of owning a home closer to the cost of renting, but that the shift will also depend on existing homeowners and their likelihood to stay in the homes for which they received low mortgage rates.

"When the relative cost of buying increases, as we've seen in recent years, the demand for rentals increases," the report states. "With long-term mortgage rates expected to remain above their pre-pandemic levels, homeowners may find that the low financing they secured years ago will keep them in their current homes for longer. This in turn will continue to suppress for-sale activity, which will further boost home prices."

And as location affects your likelihood to buy vs. rent, that also affects the pricing disparity, CBRE says. Its data shows markets like Dallas, Chicago and Raleigh will likely see the gap return to pre-2021 levels within five years. Other large markets like Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle, Nashville and the San Francisco Bay Area will take longer, the firm states.

Belgian bishop defrocked 14 years after admitting to abusing nephew

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 01:38

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Pope Francis on Thursday defrocked a notorious Belgian bishop who admitted 14 years ago that he sexually abused his nephew but faced no Vatican punishment.

The case of Roger Vangheluwe, the emeritus bishop of Brugge, long ago became a symbol of the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and dysfunction in dealing with cases of abuse. Not only was he allowed to quietly retire after the scandal broke in 2010, but the head of the Belgian church at the time, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, was caught on tape asking one of his victims to keep his abuse secret until the bishop left office.

The Vatican announcement that Francis had laicized Vangheluwe came a few months before the pope is due to visit Belgium, where the case would have been an unwelcome and problematic distraction. Vangheluwe, 87, shot to international infamy in 2010 amid disclosures he had sexually abused his young nephew for over a dozen years when he was a priest and later a bishop. He later admitted he also abused a second nephew. 

All along, he made light of his crimes, describing his abuse as "a little game" that didn't involve "rough sex."

He was allowed to retire two years shy of the normal retirement age, but faced no further punishment. It was evidence of the Holy See's general refusal at the time to sanction Catholic bishops even for admitted sex crimes.

SEE MORE: New York Archdiocese denounces transgender activist's funeral

The Vatican embassy in Belgium said in a statement Thursday that in recent months "grave new elements" had been reported to the Holy See's sex abuse office that justified reopening the case. It didn't say what new information had been received. In recent months Belgium's own bishops have grown increasingly public in their stated outrage at the Vatican's refusal to take action against Vangheluwe.

In September, Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny told Belgian broadcaster VRT that the Belgian bishops had asked the Vatican for years, in writing and in person, to defrock Vangheluwe but got no response. In its statement, the Vatican embassy said that after Vangheluwe's defense was heard, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith presented the case to Francis on March 8. Three days later, it said, Francis decided to accept the recommendation that Vangheluwe be laicized.

It is the harshest punishment that the Vatican can hand down, but it just means that Vangheluwe is now a layman and cannot present himself as a priest. He asked to be allowed to live in a retreat house "without any contact with the world" to dedicate himself to prayer and penitence, the statement said. Lieve Halsberghe, a Belgian advocate for abuse survivors, said the belated laicization brought no justice to Vangheluwe's victims and was a mere "PR stunt" ahead of Francis' visit later this year to Leuven, where the pope is to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Belgium's Catholic university.

"Images of child sexual abuse were found in 2011 on the man's computer and charges were never laid, because Vangheluwe is protected in high places," Halsberghe told The Associated Press. "The gesture of the Vatican today, after 14 years of charades with letters to and from the Vatican, is no more than a PR stunt of the Vatican, pressured by the Belgian bishops."

The Vangheluwe scandal proved a watershed moment for the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation of 11.5 million, though he was never prosecuted criminally in Belgium because his actions exceeded the statute of limitations. In the wake of the revelations, a special commission produced a report with harrowing accounts of Catholic clergy molesting hundreds of victims, some as young as 2 years old, and said the abuse led to at least 13 suicides. 

The head of the commission said that, in reality, the abuse was even worse but many victims could still not bring themselves to talk. The scandal is by no means over: Belgium's parliament is currently holding hearings on abuse, and just this week protesters demonstrated outside the French Catholic community where Vangheluwe went to live after he retired.

"Justice kneels before the church," read a sign one of the protesters held. The Vangheluwe scandal isn't the only one that has rocked the Belgian church and laid bare its wretched legacy of abuse. In 2019, the Vatican's Caritas charity admitted that it knew for two years of pedophilia concerns about the Belgian Salesian priest, Luk Delft, who ran its operations in the Central African Republic. But Caritas only removed Delft after CNN began investigating. 

It turns out, Delft had been convicted of child sexual abuse and of possession of child pornography in 2012 by a Belgian court, but the Salesians moved him to Bangui, where CNN said it found at least two more victims. Delft was laicized and formally ousted from the Salesian order on Sept. 9, 2021, a decision that was reported to Francis on April 9, 2022, Archbishop Franco Coppola, the Vatican ambassador to Belgium, said in an email Thursday to AP.

Francis in May 2022 named Delft's former Salesian superior, the retired bishop of Ghent, Luc Van Looy, a cardinal — an honor Van Looy subsequently declined because of his poor record dealing with abuse. Van Looy was in charge of the Ghent diocese when Delft was convicted by the Ghent court of abuse in 2012.

Scripps News Reports: Women of Science

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 01:30

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The list of accomplished women in science and technology is long — but they are still vastly underrepresented in their fields. Far too often, women like them are overlooked, overworked and underpaid. These are the stories of women — past and present — who have made critical contributions to science.

Scripps News interviews Seema Kumar, a veteran of the health industry and CEO of Cure, a health care innovation campus in New York; Tracy Fanara, a scientist and environmental engineer working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Meredith Broussard, a professor at New York University and a trailblazing mind in the field of artificial intelligence.

We hear about their journeys to success, the particular challenges they face in their fields, and their unique expertise in everything from vaccine safety to climate change and the growth of artificial intelligence.

SEE MORE: Scripps News Reports: 48 Hours on the Border

Starbucks-branded mugs recalled due to 'burn,' 'laceration' warnings

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 01:22

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Consumer safety officials have announced a recall of Starbucks-branded mugs sold in gift sets or individually that could cause serious injuries if exposed to heat. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the metallic mugs — which have been sold in 2023 holiday gift sets and branded with coffee-giant Starbucks' logo — could overheat or break if microwaved or filled with very hot liquids. This could cause burns or lacerations, CPSC said in a statement. 

The agency said the mug's maker, Nestlé USA, issued the recall.  

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The company said if you believe you are in possession of one of the mugs or a set, they should be returned for a refund to the point of sale. The recall was issued on Thursday. 

The recall includes four gift sets which were sold in a grouping containing a ceramic mug with a metallic coating. The mugs were sold in various sizes including an 11-ounce mug and a 16-ounce mug. 

Another set sold during the 2023 holiday season included two mugs in one version, and another had a Starbucks Classic Hot Cocoa package and a mug. Another set had a Starbucks Peppermint and a Classic Hot Cocoa package along with a mug, and another had a Starbucks Holiday Blend coffee and a mug.

If you have one of these products you are asked to please stop using it and either return the products to the point of purchase for a refund or contact Nestlé USA. 

House floats a new bill for warning labels on AI-generated content

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 01:10

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The House of Representatives on Thursday introduced a new bill that would require disclaimers to be attached to AI-generated content online.

The bill, which has support from both Democrats and Republicans, would require AI-generated content to be marked with digital signatures in their metadata. AI content on platforms like YouTube or TikTok would have to carry disclaimers that users would recognize.

“We've seen so many examples already, whether it's voice manipulation or a video deepfake. I think the American people deserve to know whether something is a deepfake or not," said Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, one of the bill's sponsors.

Florida Republican Neal Dunn, also a sponsor, said a rule to require disclaimers on AI content would be a "simple safeguard" for all of the audiences that AI reaches.

The final rule would be implemented by the Federal Trade Commission. Violators could face civil lawsuits.

SEE MORE: YouTube requiring creators to label 'realistic' AI content

The new legislation joins other efforts from lawmakers and tech companies worldwide to manage the new wave of AI content.

A group of large tech and social platform companies have already signed on to voluntary measures that would manage AI content. In July of 2023, companies including Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI agreed to new guidelines set up by the Biden administration that would include third-party testing for cybersecurity, information sharing with researchers and regulators and some disclaimer practices for consumers like those Congress is now weighing.

Later that year, Google and Meta announced they would set up new rules to require disclosure labels on political ad content that included any AI elements.

President Biden has signed an executive order regulating the use of AI by federal agencies.

And EU regulators have already set out comprehensive rules for the use of AI, set to go into full force in 2025. Broadly, they will manage or ban AI practices that pose risks to the public, hold AI developers to specific safety obligations and set up a governing body in the EU to carry out continued oversight.

Detroit Lions release Cameron Sutton as police search continues

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 00:38

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The Detroit Lions released Cameron Sutton on Thursday as authorities continue to search for the defensive back to serve a domestic violence warrant in Florida.

The team announced the move on the X social media platform without offering any other details.

#Lions have released CB Cam Sutton.

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) March 21, 2024

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Florida, which includes Tampa, has asked for help in finding Sutton, a seven-year pro who just finished his first season with the Lions and helped them reach the NFC championship game for the first time in 32 years.

The warrant is for domestic battery by strangulation, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Sutton may be driving a Jeep Grand Wagoneer with a Florida license plate, the sheriff's office has said.

Correction: Sutton Charge Update

Cameron Sutton is wanted for Domestic Battery by Strangulation. It was originally relayed as Aggravated Battery - Domestic Violence. https://t.co/80WQsmQYwj

— HCSO (@HCSOSheriff) March 20, 2024

The department responded to a call about domestic violence in progress involving the 29-year-old Sutton and a female around 5 a.m. on March 7, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

Authorities issued the warrant based on the evidence they found and suspect that Sutton has fled Tampa, the newspaper reported.

It wasn't clear if Sutton has a lawyer to speak for him. A text message sent to Sutton's agent, David Canter, was not immediately returned.

The warrant provided by the sheriff's department was almost entirely blacked out; it did list a home belonging to him in Dunedin, Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and property records show him as the owner.

The Lions signed Sutton to a $33 million, three-year contract a little more than a year ago, targeting him as a key player to acquire last offseason. He helped the franchise win a division title for the first time in three decades along with two playoff games in one postseason for the first time since 1957.

Sutton started all 17 regular season games, making a career-high 65 tackles and one interception. He also started all three playoff games.

Sutton started 31 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2021-22 seasons, making five interceptions with 95 tackles. The Steelers drafted the former Tennessee star, who is from Jonesboro, Georgia, in the third round in 2017. He has nine interceptions in 101 games over his career.

US reports its first case of bird flu in a domestic baby goat

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 00:29

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A baby goat in Minnesota tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, marking the first time the virus has been found in a domestic ruminant in the U.S.

Earlier this month, a farm owner in Stevens County reported that newborn goats had mysteriously died following the removal of a poultry flock in February due to HPAI, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. 

The board noted that since the goats and poultry shared the same area and water supply on the farm, they took one of the dead goats for testing, which then came back positive for influenza A, and later confirmed as H5N1.

“This finding is significant because, while the spring migration is definitely a higher-risk transmission period for poultry, it highlights the possibility of the virus infecting other animals on farms with multiple species,” Minnesota state veterinarian Dr. Brian Hoefs said in a press release. “Thankfully, research to date has shown mammals appear to be dead-end hosts, which means they’re unlikely to spread HPAI further."

The H5N1 outbreak was first reported in Feb. 2022, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the strain on a Midwest poultry farm. 

Since then, the USDA reports that over 82 million birds in the U.S. have been impacted across 48 states. 

While it does mostly affect birds, the virus has also spread to over 200 mammals across the U.S., such as foxes, skunks, mountain lions, bears, squirrels and sea lions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions the public to be on alert if their domestic animals come into contact with an infected bird, potentially exposing them to the virus. 

Are tax credits better than deductions? Advice for top tax questions

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 00:19

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Finances are often a top-of-mind subject for many Americans, but come tax season, it's a whole different beast. That's when you have to spend time thinking of how you're going to file, what you can write off, how much time you have left to procrastinate and so on. 

But even after all that time spent thinking, there are typically some questions still left lingering behind after you file — questions you may have forgotten about until they popped up again this year.

And now as next month's tax deadline looms, it's now or never to get some clarity. Personal finance expert and founder/CEO of oXYGen Financial Ted Jenkin joined Scripps News to help answer some of your tax(ing) questions.

If I'm on disability or I'm retired, do I have to file taxes?

Jenkin told Scripps News he thinks it's "always" a good idea to file and potentially get your tax return. But if you're on disability, it's case by case.

The finance expert said those who are getting disability insurance through their employer probably should file, but for those getting Social Security Disability, "you probably don't need to file."

The same goes if you're retired and on Social Security. Jenkin said in those cases, you probably don't need to file, but it's always a good idea to do so anyway. 

"Remember this: If the IRS owes you money, you can wait as long as you want; they're going to pay you. But if you owe money, you better file those taxes because interest and penalties can add up," he told Scripps News.

Here is what the IRS has to say about retirees and tax season.

What's the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction, and which is better?

The IRS defines a tax deduction as "an amount you subtract from your income when you file so you don't pay tax on it." Jenkin says tax deductions, like a 401(k) or an HSA, get you to your taxable income, which is the amount the IRS uses to calculate how much you owe. 

The federal body defines a tax credit as "an amount you subtract from the tax you owe." Jenkin says these are what can reduce the amount you owe "dollar-for-dollar." He told Scripps News that's why credits are better than deductions because "it reduces exactly what you owe, not your taxable income."

SEE MORE: Talking Taxes: Scripps News answers viewers' biggest tax questions

Can I deduct my student loan interest?

Jenkin says the answer to this question is "maybe."

The IRS states you may "deduct the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest you actually paid during the year." But Jenkin says it depends on something called your MAGI, or modified adjusted gross income. 

Ultimately, that means if you're a single filer making less than $75,000 or a married couple making less than $150,000, you can fully deduct the interest. But above those levels, it starts to phase out, and it also depends on the type of loan you have.

Jenkin says those with student loans should have gotten a Form 1098-E in the mail. That will tell you how much interest you paid on student loans in the calendar year.

Is there a first-time homebuyer tax credit available this year?

The short answer is … no. But Jenkin points to the bill President Joe Biden introduced in his March 7 State of the Union address as something that might change that.

The proposed bill would give first-time homebuyers $10,000 in tax credits split into two years — so $5,000 each. It's aimed to help middle-class families into their first homes, but it all depends on if Congress will enact the proposal.


If your question didn't get answered here, you can submit it to Scripps News to answer in two ways: You can call our toll-free viewer hotline at 1-833-4SCRIPPS, or post your question on X with #TalkingTaxes.

No charges will be filed in death of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict

Fri, 03/22/2024 - 00:11

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No charges are going to be filed in the death of Nex Benedict, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler said Thursday. 

Benedict died on Feb. 8, and the medical examiner ruled their death a suicide in a summary report released already. The full report is being released on March 27.

Benedict died one day after a fight at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. There has been an outcry locally and nationally following their death. Vigils across the globe paid tribute to them.

The DA's office said in a release the fight started after two groups of students attending "in-school suspension" antagonized each other in the days leading up to the fight. Kunzweiler said none of the students reported this to a teacher or school administrator.

Witnesses said the fight in the bathroom lasted less than one minute after Nex poured water over two girls after comments were made about how Benedict laughed.

SEE MORE: Nonbinary Oklahoma teen involved in high school fight died by suicide

On Feb. 8, Owasso police were called to Benedict's home, where Sue Benedict reported Nex was suffering a medical emergency. Emergency crews performed life-saving measures on the teen. Benedict was then transported to the hospital and was pronounced dead. The Owasso medical examiner began investigating Benedict's death.

The ME determined Benedict's death to be a suicide caused by an overdose and drug toxicity. The ME's office reported injuries consistent with a fight were externally visible, but no internal injuries that would have caused death.

During the investigation, OPD discovered brief notes written by Benedict. The DA's statement said the notes appeared to be related to the suicide and did not reference the previous fight or difficulties at school.

Their parents did say Benedict talked about being picked on at school.

The DA said after going over investigations from both the fight and the suicide scene, there are no reasons for charges to be filed in Benedict's death.

The Department of Justice is still investigating Owasso Public Schools. The department said it opened an investigation into the alleged failed response to sex-based harassment by OPS.

Below is the full statement from Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Tulsa.

Senior dog adopted by senior citizen gains new life and new fame

Thu, 03/21/2024 - 23:44

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It's a familiar story: A pet spends way too long in an animal shelter waiting to be rescued. The ASPCA estimates that around 6.3 million companion animals are taken to one of their animal shelters across the United States each year. 

But, among those stories of heartbreak, come those that warm the heart — like in the case of Velcro, a senior dog who spent over 700 days in an Austin animal shelter before he was finally rescued by a senior citizen who gave him the home he deserved. 

Velcro arrived at Austin Pets Alive in 2022, according to a video shared by the shelter on Facebook. Velcro was partially blind and had some mobility and neurological issues, according to his adoption story. He would need the right home so that he could live out the rest of his years with dignity and happiness. 

In April of last year, the shelter shared a video showing him — then named "Beluga" — playing with a toy and enjoying his small space at the facility. Austin Pets Alive said one of the first characteristics people noticed about him was his head tilt. They hypothesized that he might have had some sort of trauma during his life. 

SEE MORE: American Kennel Club reveals the most popular dog breeds in the US

And that just because he "processes the world just a little bit differently," that didn't seem to stop him from being fun-loving and "adorable."

The shelter called him a "charmer," and able to "adapt to his way of doing things." Well, he eventually charmed Jeanette. 

Her previous two dogs had died, and she decided it was time for a new friend. She came to visit another dog, and then she saw who she would end up adopting — naming him "Velcro." He was 10 years old. 

Velcro went home with Jeanette as a foster, to see if he liked his new home, and it worked out just fine. 

Jeanette told People magazine she's no longer her "spry" self anymore, but Velcro gives her a reason to go on walks and stay active. 

Earlier this month the ASPCA reported that around 120 mistreated dogs were rescued from a breeding operation in Florida. And reports of more and more animals being surrendered to shelters across the country have surfaced in headlines. 

The numbers are alarming as animal groups, like the ASPCA, report that hundreds of thousands of animals are euthanized annually. 

The Animal Foundation says that adopting senior pets in need comes with benefits. Not only will you be helping an animal extend their life in comfort, but often they are already housebroken and calmer than younger dogs. Some shelters offer discounts on adoption fees for older pets, or for senior citizens who are adopting. 

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